Hank Bull. Connexion

Curators: Joni Low, Pan Wendt

Artist: Hank Bull

October 23, 2015 - December 5, 2015

Opening: October 22, 2015, 5:30 pm

Connexion is a major exhibition of Canadian artist Hank Bull. Relatively unknown to the general public, despite his fundamental importance in the development of visual arts in Canada, Hank Bull takes a central role in a global network of artists and various institutions. The exhibition transforms the personal archives of the artist, covering a period of over fifty years, in a sculptural installation. Neither a retrospective nor an archive exhibition, Hank Bull. Connexion rather seeks to make sense of the materials gathered by the artist throughout his career and highlights an artistic practice based on collaboration .

The exhibition

Since the 1970s, Vancouver-based multimedia artist Hank Bull has acted as a connecting figure between artists and artistic communities internationally. Inspired initially by experimental music, mail art, Fluxus, and the absurdist performances associated with Dada and pataphysics, much of his practice has been ephemeral and dialogic, produced for underground audiences in artist-run and improvised contexts. Performance, communication, and the building of networks have thus often eclipsed the production of material things. Yet, material things have played an important role in his career — as documents, as vehicles of communication, as props, and as aesthetic objects in their own right. Hank Bull: Connexion considers the material traces of a life lived as art, exhibiting the varied collection of the artist as a sculptural installation.

Presented in varying states of order and chaos, this diverse array of things — performance props, photographs, videos, documents, technology — points to a network of relationships with artists and communities around the world. It embodies a collaborative practice that has consistently embraced juxtaposition and exchange across boundaries—whether geographic, temporal, cultural, political, disciplinary or psychic. Bull’s arrangement of objects, in which a decorative ceramic vase might sit comfortably next to a stack of political newspapers or a prop from a film, mirrors the experimentation with collective ways of working, living and being together, that is at the core of his approach. The connections between seemingly incongruous objects spark unexpected associations, while also extending outward to their wider social significance and histories. For Bull, art is a way of being in the world: of responding to, improvising with and sculpting the material of the social. Connexion proposes an expanded notion of the artist as a connector of people.

The artist

Hank Bull was born in Calgary, Alberta in 1949 and now lives in Vancouver. A multimedia artist as well as an arts administrator, he has been an important member of the legendary Western Front Society since 1973. He is also the founder and executive director of Centre A (Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art) since 1999. Hank was an early adopter of telecommunications technologies and, between 1978 and 1986, joined a global network of artists who produced collective works using distance transmission of video and text. During an extended trip around the world with artist Kate Craig in the 80’s, he met numerous artists in Japan, Indonesia, India, Cameroon, Yugoslavia and France. In the wake of this experience, he co-founded, with Robert Filliou, The Afro-Asiatic Combine, “to research the influence of African and Asian thought on Western culture.” His work was presented at the Museum of Modern Art (1991) as well as at the Venice Biennale (1986), the Dokumenta in Kassel (1987) and Ars Electronica (1982, 1989). An active member of his community, he served for five years on the Sectoral Committee for Arts and Culture of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO and has been a regular contributor to Art Matters, an initiative of Her Excellency Michaëlle Jean, Governor General. His work is part of the collections of the National Gallery of Canada, the Netherlands Media Art Institute and many private collectors.

The curators

Joni Low is an independent curator and writer living in Vancouver, British Columbia. Recent curatorial projects include Fountain: the source or origin of anything, a large-scale outdoor photographic mural and webwork by Laiwan (The Wall: CBC Plaza, 2014) and Idle Wild by DRIL art collective (Café for Contemporary Art, 2012). Her writing has appeared in numerous exhibition catalogues and in publications including Canadian Art, C Magazine, Fillip, The Capilano Review and Yishu: Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art. A member of Other Sights for Artists’ Projects and the Doryphore Independent Curators Society, she has held positions at the Vancouver Art Gallery, Long March Space Beijing, and Centre A, where she developed a specialized public library on contemporary Asian art.

Pan Wendt is Curator at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery (CCAG) in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. He worked as a freelance curator and critic, and was Adjunct Curator at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery from 2007 to 2010. Exhibition credits include James Lee Byars: Letters from the World’s Most Famous Unknown Artist (Mass MoCA, 2004); Colleen Wolstenholme: A Divided Room (CCAG, 2008); Funkaesthetics (with Luis Jacob, Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, 2009); Free Parking (CCAG, 2011); Aganetha Dyck: Guest Workers (CCAG, 2011); Swintak and Don Miller: Artist-Run Bunker, Vol. 1 (CCAG, 2012); and Quotation (CCAG, 2013). He has been co-curator of Art in the Open in Charlottetown since its inception in 2011. He has taught at University of Prince Edward Island, served on numerous local and national juries, and published in various contemporary art journals and catalogues.

The catalogue

The opening of October 22 will also be the opportunity to launch the publication accompanying the exhibition.

The richly illustrated catalog is published by the Confederation Centre Art Gallery in collaboration with the Burnaby Art Gallery. Built in the image of a notebook of the artist, the publication continues the work of the exhibition in creating multiple links between disparate elements of collected archives. The publication also contains essays by Hank Bull, curators Joni Low and Pan Wendt and contributions by Serge Guilbault, Alex Muir, Kevin Rice and Ellen van Eijnsbergen.

Free activities

The artist will give a guided tour of the exhibition on Thursday, November 5, from 5 pm to 6 pm

The artist will be present in the exhibition space to meet the public on Friday and Saturday, November 6 and 7, during the opening hours of the gallery

Support provided by